Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How do we stop this?


On Sunday night, in a part of Washington that's not considered an especially bad section of town, we had a man get out of his vehicle, approach a car and fire a shot into that vehicle, wounding a 24-year-old Washington man. A day earlier, a 19-year-old woman tells police that she was standing on North Main Street when she was shot in the elbow as she stood next to disabled vehicle. The details on both of these incidents are sketchy, and the woman who was shot on Saturday had been charged just recently with giving false information to police in an unrelated incident. In August, a woman with the same name was driving a car in Canton Township in which a man was accused of having nearly 80 packets of heroin and a bag of suspected crack. Draw your own conclusions. But whatever the circumstances, the issue is that people are being shot on the streets of Washington with an alarming frequency of late. The level of street violence here is not as bad as in Pittsburgh, but it's clearly getting worse. Washington Mayor Sonny Spossey notes that many times, the victims of the shootings know their assailants but refuse to cooperate with police. Said the mayor, "They won't tell us because they are either afraid or want to get even themselves. Unfortunately, this is the way things have evolved. It used to be that people would get into a fight, punch each other and be done with it. Now, they want to shoot someone." I don't particularly care whether a couple of crackheads try to take one another out, but the day is coming when an innocent person - maybe a pregnant woman or a small child - is going to get between the gunman and his or her intended victim. I don't know what the answer is to this problem. Any suggestions?

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13 Comments:

Anonymous Steelerfan43 said...

Brant there are no new suggestions, just the same ones that all of us have been saying for a long time. The people who are tired of the shootings etc. in their neighborhoods need to take a stand. Tell on these criminals and drug addicts who poison these places. Don't be afraid of backlash. You are already being held hostage in your homes and afraid for your life, what is the difference? Maybe Washington County should put their most wanted criminals on Comcast On Demand like Allegheny County and offer decent rewards for their capture. Use the drug money you have seized as the reward money. Maybe Washington County should also implement a crime hot line for people to call in anonymously and report drug deals, shootings, prostitution etc. Supply the citizens who are afraid to speak up with the tools necessary to do so while allowing them to try to protect themselves from retaliation.

October 21, 2008 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Another step in the right direction, which I've mentioned in a previous post, is to keep low-life, repeat offenders in jail, rather than releasing them on paltry bonds and sentencing them over and over again to probation or minimal jail terms.

October 21, 2008 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I hate to be a doomsayer, but I'm afraid the situation in Washington is going to get worse before it gets better. Richmond has some pretty rough neighborhoods, and shootings like Brant described were quite common here back in the 90s. Heck, at 12:06 a.m. one New Year's Day, a guy shot someone on the street just so he could be the first person that year to kill someone. He actually told that to the police when he was arrested.

Now things are better here but it took several years to get that way. The fear of retaliation that grips neighbors, friends and family of the shooters or victims is quite real. Think about it: we're dealing with people who have no respect for human life, who will shoot just because they have a gun and can. Ratting them out to the cops would only piss them off. And if they're going down for one murder anyway, what's to stop them from killing one more person just for revenge? It's a vicious cycle, and it takes a long time to fix.

I don't know if there's anything like Crime Stoppers up there, but it's an anonymous phone hot line. People with info about a crime call the number; there's no tracing the call, no Caller ID, no court appearances, nothing. They give the info anonymously, they're assigned a number, and that's it. If the info they provide leads to the conviction of the criminal, they get $1000. It seems to have helped some. An increased police presence and tougher laws help too. But all of that takes time, and the thing that seems to take the longest, unfortunately, is for the innocent bystanders and victims to get angry enough or frightened enough to do something about it.

October 21, 2008 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Washington is the county seat... and it seems that, as a function of that, all the half-way houses, rehab centers, mental health facilities, and shelters are huddled together in a small area... You will notice that there are a disproportionately high number of "transients" in the city after business hours... In most other towns, you see 10 normal, productive people going about their legal recreation for every 1 "weirdo." Downtown washington is almost the polar opposite... this isn't meant as an attack on people down on their luck, battling mental illness or addiction... but when you import a lot of those people and attempt to rehab them... and when their 6 months or 9 months is up, you let them out... they stick to their groups of fellow addicts, can't afford to get back to whatever part of the county they originated from, and basically stick around. Perhaps it's not them who are doing the shooting, but the black market cottage industry that grows up around them: the drug sales, prostitution, and other "low-lifery."

How do you fix it? Hell I don't know... treat people in the jurisdiction they are living in... don't send a crack head from 84 to a halfway house on N. Main...

This sounds like a harsher indictment than I intend... I really do feel for these people... and wish them well.

October 21, 2008 at 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Blondie, Esq. said...

It is really getting to be bad. I walk about 6 miles through the City 5 evenings a week and sometimes due to my work schedule, I am out there in the dark and have never had any fear, now that's not the case. I believe that people in the City know who is responsible for the crimes, however, they will not cooperate, is it out of fear? I am not sure. I think that the new DA is a step in the right direction, unfortunately, it's going to take a while to get things under control. What really concerns me is the damn City is broke, so where will that leave our police? We need more of a police presence, but who knows what's in the budget? Our City Council is too busy fighting among themselves at meetings, I've been there and it's a shame!

I agree with Steelerfan43, the idea of putting the Washington County most wanted on Comcast is a great idea! There was just a story today on the morning news that 2 Allegheny County fugitives were caught that were featured on Comcast.

Blondie, Esq.

October 21, 2008 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

Putting the pictures on TV does work. Look at "America's Most Wanted." It's a good idea. And Comcast would get praised for it's public service messages. It's win-win.

October 22, 2008 at 7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First the corruption of the justice system had to be fixed. That has started under the changes in the DA's office.
Second the city police need the bad apples rooted out. That is more important than more money thrown at the problem. Corrupt cops combined with a few violent racist ones do more harm than anyone can imagine.
Ellispes, the comments regarding the social services are dead on. This system needs revamped. Less social services in the city. Land should be found to build and move these services to a central location away from other residents. (how about rural Somerset Township for example). The current system does not work, period.
The combinaton of all of these factors are killing the city, but at least one of them is improving slowly. It will get better if Toprani has the guts to take on crooked cops and actually take them down. Law enforcement spends too much time and money protecting its own.

October 22, 2008 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

UPDATE: A reporter friend tells me that Comcast is, indeed, working with police in our area to set up a most-wanted operation similar to that in Allegheny County.

October 22, 2008 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need o keep criminals in jail...how many times does the Barfield's, Field's,and Barne's need to be arrested before someone reallizes they need to be kept away from society?

Appologies to good, honest, law-abiding citizens who just happen to have the same last names,but I'm sure you have experienced enough embarrassment because of these a=holes.

Build more jails.

October 24, 2008 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Absolutely. If we need to have three county jails just to keep the scum off the streets, I'm willing to help pay for it with my tax dollars. People who cannot, or will not, behave in a way acceptable to society should not be allowed to be part of society.

October 25, 2008 at 10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant:
These shootings are drug related. The most recent one has proven that and police have arrested the victim. Two arrests yesterday on the front page this morning. The city, the Drug Task Force and the District Attorney's have come together to try to solve this problem. We need the help of the community also. We are installing camera's around the city, stepping up police patrols, supporting neighborhood watches and we have a Hot Line for folks to call. Some are still reluctant to call but I have noticed we are slowly getting some cooperation from residents. We are, as one writer mentioned, a county seat, and folks are sent to Washington because we have all of the services for these them. That is why all of these half-way houses are coming to our city. We are working on ordinances to limit these houses in neighborhoods. What folks do not know that under the law these houses are considered a family living together whether they are blood relatives or not so we cannot stop them from purchasing houses and using them for this business. We have a grave concern as to what is going on in our city but we are bound by laws also. We would be accused of discrimination. It is against the law to refuse housing to disabeled folks and we do not want to do that but now the question has arisen that a drug addiction and alcoholism can sometimes be diagnosed as a disability and they cannot be discriminated against and we have to follow the law and permit these folks to live in housing in our neighborhoods. Frustrating isn't it. Just want folks to know that Mayor and council are addressing these problems.

October 25, 2008 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I understand that folks are working to address these problems, and they are hamstrung by the laws. I also commend the district attorney for his efforts. Sadly, it seems like sometimes the criminal element has all the advantages under the law, and fighting them is like pushing a huge rock up a mountain. Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

October 25, 2008 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

get the guns off the streets!
i think if the city, police or community org would put a bounty on handing over guns, say $25 for each gun turned over to police would help problems in the city. if $25 isn't enough increase money until guns start comming in. guns would then be trashed.
west end crime watch!

February 22, 2009 at 2:33 AM  

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